Thomas L. Saaty

July 18, 1926 – August 14, 2017

Brief Biography

Thomas L. Saaty was born in Mosul, in British-administered Iraq. His father was a well-known entrepreneur who opened the country's first ice-making factory. Coming from a Christian family, the young Saaty was sent to a Quaker high school in Lebanon. At nineteen, he came to the United State to attend Columbia Union College and the Catholic University of America. On the suggestion of his Columbia Union mathematics teacher, George G. O’Brien, Saaty pursued a graduate-level mathematics education at Yale University.

O’Brien first initiated Saaty’s interest in operations research by introducing him to the U.S. Air Force’s Project SCOOP (Scientific Computation of Optimal Programs). Saaty spent two summers as an intern at SCOOP and worked alongside other mathematicians (notably Saul Gass), analyzing the impact on linear programming solutions of perturbations of the data. After receiving his PhD, Saaty joined Melpar, Inc. of the Westinghouse Airbrake Company to study submarine defense. In 1954, he joined the Operations Evaluation Group and became interested in the processing of naval messages. His research on the subject helped bring the waiting-line concepts to OR and motivated him to write Elements of Queueing Theory with Applications (1961).

Saaty was appointed scientific liaison officer to the United States Embassy in London in 1958, making use of this position to determine the current state of mathematical, statistical, and OR developments globally. When he returned stateside the following year, he was named Director of Advanced Planning in the Office of Naval Research before joining the State Department’s Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) as a scientific analyst.  Saaty’s work on conflict resolution and disarmament drove him to the study of complex decision problems. Though it never came to fruition, his proposed International Center for Conflict Resolution set the bar for future conflict resolution programs. During his time at ACDA, Saaty worked on a variety of topics in modern, social, biological, and behavioral mathematics. In 1973, he and George B. Dantzig co-wrote Compact City in an attempt to design a better planned, efficiently spaced urban environment.

In 1969, Saaty started his academic career at the University of Pennsylvania with the Wharton Business School's Graduate Groups of Operations Research and Social Systems Sciences. After ten years, he moved to the University of Pittsburgh where he has since remained as a member of the Department of Decision, Operations, and Information Technology.

Throughout his career, Saaty has largely focused on the development of analytical procedures and methods for resolving central decision problems. This led to the creation of the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP). The AHP is based on three basic principles of human behavior: (1) understanding a complex problem by the decomposition of various elements, (2) comparison of said elements to determine their influence on the whole, and (3) synthesis to assemble an understanding of the knowledge gathered. An early and successful implementation of the AHP was a two year study to produce a comprehensive transport plan for the Sudan. Saaty is also well known for the growth of the Analytical Network Process, an extension of the AHP meant for a wider class of problems.

Saaty is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Since 1981 The American Journal of Mathematical and Management Science has recognized the best research paper in applied mathematics and management sciences with the Thomas L. Saaty Prize.

Other Biographies

Profiles in Operations Research: Thomas L. Saaty
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Wikipedia Entry for Thomas L. Saaty


Columbia Union College, BS 1948

The Catholic University of America, MS 1949

Yale University, MA 1951

Yale University, PhD 1953 (Mathematics Genealogy


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Memoirs and Autobiographies



Assad, A. & Vargas, L. G.  Thomas L. Saaty (1926-2017).  ORMS Today vol 33 (5), October 2017 (link)

Blazina, E. (2017) Obituary: Thomas L. Saaty / Developed groundbreaking process for making decisions.  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Aug 20, 2017 (link)

Cetin, E. & Kiremitci, B. (2018) Thomas L. Saaty: immortal intellectual giant.  OR/MS Today vol 45 no 5, October 2018 (link)

Awards and Honors

American Association for the Advancement of Sciences Fellow 1959

Lester R. Ford Award 1973

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

National Academy of Engineering 2005

QFD Institute Akao Prize 2007

INFORMS Impact Prize 2008

Doktor Honoris Causa (2012), Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland. 

                       Ceremony (Polish); Acceptance speech (English)

Selected Publications

Saaty T. L. (1957) Résumé of useful formulas in queueing theory. Operations Research, 5(2): 162-200.

Saaty T. L. (1959) Mathematical Methods of Operations Research. McGraw-Hill: New York.

Saaty T. L. (1961) Elements of Queueing Theory with Applications. McGraw-Hill: New York.

Saaty T. L. (1968) Mathematical Models of Arms Control and Disarmament. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

Saaty T. L. (1970) Optimization in Integers and Related Extremal Problems. McGraw-Hill: New York.

Dantzig G. B. & Saaty T. L. (1973) Compact City. W. H. Freeman: New York.

Saaty T. L. (1977) A scaling method for priorities in hierarchical structures. Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 15(3): 234-281.

Saaty T. L. (1980) The Analytic Hierarchy Process. McGraw-Hill: New York.

Boone L. W. & Saaty T. L. (1990) Embracing the Future. Praeger: New York.

Saaty T. L. (2001) The Analytic Network Process. RWS Publications: Pittsburgh, PA.